In his weekly football column, Gregg Easterbrook usually manages to include lots of non-football stuff, like this:
Sir, I Have Applied My Lip Gloss, Sir! On TNT’s summer ratings hit The Last Ship, about a virus apocalypse that kills most of humanity, when the titular vessel stops at a naval base and aerial recon shows everyone ashore is dead, the XO says, “I don’t like the looks of this.” Really! Then the captain goes along with the landing party, just like on Star Trek. Half the plots on the many Star Trek serials boiled down to this formula:
1. Crew notices something interesting.
2. Captain leads away team that investigates.
3. The thing is not what it seemed! Captain is in grave peril.
4. Remainder of the episode is a rescue mission.
The Last Ship has followed this formula, with its captain several times leading landing parties. At one point a three-person shore party has walked far into the Nicaraguan jungle in search of a rare monkey; two of the three persons are the captain and XO. In another episode, the captain leads a party checking out a derelict fishing boat that might have a clue about the plague destroying the world. Oh no, it’s a trap — he’s captured by the Russians, and the entire next episode is a rescue mission. Scriptwriters: Captains of ships, whether Earthbound or interstellar, do not lead landing parties. Any captain stupid enough to assign himself to a landing party should be relieved of duty!
The 2012 ABC seagoing potboiler Last Resort took considerable liberties with United States Navy vessels. The submarine that was the show’s focus carried both strategic nuclear missiles and cruise missiles (U.S. subs have one or the other), had commando teams (no strategic submarines are equipped to dispatch Marines) and possessed a Star Trek-style invisibility cloak that made it disappear from radar and sonar. The titular vessel in The Last Ship, a Burke-class destroyer with the fictional name Nathan James — it even gets a fictional designation, DDG-151 — is reasonably similar to actual Burke-class destroyers.
The James is depicted as having emergency sails, able to launch two of these — a real boat type but one found on assault ships, not destroyers — and having a main gun that can hit small moving targets, which would allow the James to clean up in any naval gunnery competition. But mostly the ship is realistic, except in that the entire crew is really good-looking.
Female personnel have served on United States surface combatant vessels for about 20 years and on submarines for about two years, so the show’s depiction of a casually mixed-gender complement is accurate. But the women of the James, on active duty aboard a warship during the apocalypse, wear eye makeup and lipstick. Don’t they know loose lips sink ships?
That was one of the things about all the Star Trek shows that bothered me: the captain, first officer, and often chief medical officer being the default configuration for any kind of work away from the ship (along with a few expendable redshirts for brief, tragic death scenes). I don’t know if it’s a carry-over from historical fiction of the Napoleonic wars, where Captain Hornblower seemed to be spending half his time at sea leading boarding parties or cutting-out expeditions, but even then he usually left his first lieutenant in command of the ship in his absence.